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Throwing Barbs Across the Fence: Gnarly Charlie's Exclusive Interview with Dave Wyndorf of MONSTER MAGNET

By Charlie Steffens aka Gnarly Charlie, Writer/Photographer
Sunday, March 2, 2014 @ 5:49 PM

"Make it weird when it's supposed to be normal. Make it normal when it's supposed to be weird."

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Dave Wyndorf could care less about having a multitudinous following on Twitter or what's hip in pop culture these days. As singer/songwriter and founding member of MONSTER MAGNET, Wyndorf has stayed true to his artistry throughout the course of his band, which began over 20 years ago. While shapes may shift and colors may change, what started out as a psychedelic rock band has remained a psychedelic rock band.

Last Patrol, released last year, created a buzz from fans and made many critics' Top 10 lists for 2013.

"When it finally came down to make the next record (Last Patrol), I just made a decision to say, 'I'm tired of doing fist-in-the-air rock songs.' I just got tired of it. It's time to kind of change the curve, change the orbit of MONSTER MAGNET a little. And I wanted to do a little more psych stuff, stuff that I really, really loved when I started playing guitar. I've got nothing to lose. It's not like you're headed for the charts or anything. But it wouldn't play because that stuff doesn't play. So I decided to get more introspective on things. I'm not really looking to reinvent the world or anything. I'm just looking for a way to express myself in a comfortable way, that's honest on all points. The only way to do that is to carefully craft music...something that sounds literally sewn together. This is not a digital editing feat. There's not a lot of cheating going on. It's really old school music and that's the way they used to make records. So it took a while, but it was well worth it. It was really fun. So now I got this squirrely little record, this little example of what the future of MONSTER MAGNET 's going to be. So I'm totally psyched."

Wyndorf's approach to music is revitalized. Even more, his outlook on life has changed:

"I'm totally back to normal. I took a couple hits about six years ago, drug-wise," he says, referring to the period when he had become addicted to the benzodiazepine, a drug prescribed for sleep. "After years of not doing any drugs at all, I got addicted to prescription medication and it damn near killed me. I was getting exactly what I wanted out of this drug. It was to go to sleep, because you can’t tour and not get any sleep."

Addiction to benzodiazepine led to 4-Way Diablo (2007), which Wyndorf describes as a "train-wreck drug album"; the first album he had written while in the throes of his addiction: "You got enough addictions in your life. Focus psychosis. The drug thing with me. Addictive drugs: not good, because the brain wants just that. Some people can do it. I used to be jealous of them. Some people can. Some people can't. I can't. You know, if you can't get things done, then there's no amount of drugs in the world you'd have to be completely high until you die, because you'd never be happy as soon as you woke up. You have to accomplish something. How many songs did you write? Did you do something that was cool? Was it creative. Not for any other reason than to be worth being on the planet. What did I make today. Did I make something cool? Did I try something cool? I miss the comfortably numb void of drugs. Who wouldn't love to be comfortably numb all the time. But it doesn't figure into my DNA. It doesn't figure into my mindset. So I avoid it at all cost."

"Got right back on the horse, made an album called Mastermind (2010) very quickly, got back on the road, and toured the living shit out of Europe. Went back, toured even more Europe, doing whole performances of earlier records, records in their entirety. One tour doing Dopes to Infinity (1995), and another tour doing Spine of God (1991). So we were doing a Mastermind tour, a greatest hits tour, plus these individual album tours. It became more of a live machine more than we ever were, and we were changing material all the time, which is really nice. So the MONSTER MAGNET people over there were really into it because they were always getting something different. That's something I couldn't do in the States. There's be no way. Three tours in one year? Forget it."

The title track "Last Patrol" was written with live (performance) in mind, according to Wyndorf: "It's one of those songs where there's really no way to edit it down to single length. So if you're not going to edit it for some purpose like that you might as well go for it. It's freak out time. Let's fucking go. Those kind of riffs--that Arabian scale, they're supposed to be played long...that's a HAWKWIND thing. I got no problem with extending stuff, as long as it's orchestrated where it has peaks and valleys. It was originally 12 minutes and I actually edited it down to nine. It's kind of an orchestrated freak out. You leave a space for the guys to play along and they fill in the blanks quite nicely."

"Three King Fishers" is a trippy, Eastern-edged song from DONOVAN's 1966 album, Sunshine Superman. When choosing covers, Wyndorf seems to pick the more obscure songs from popular artists' catalogues: "That song just kills me. It's killed me for a long time. I needed something like sixteen songs for this record and I was throwing them out three songs at a time. I needed two songs to finish out the record. One, a really authentic mid-'60s, dawn-of-psyche kind of stuff. Really pretty and delicate."

"This is the 10th album I've written. I never thought I'd write more than 10 songs in my whole life. Huge satisfaction. I'm humble. I'm downright humble! (laughs) Tears well up in the eye and the whole bit. It's been a strange, weird career for MONSTER MAGNET. Misinterpreted the whole time and I think I kind of pushed that. Make it weird when it's supposed to be normal. Make it normal when it's supposed to be weird. And along the way we've disappeared from some people's maps but showed up on others. Disappeared from the rock scene yet showed up on all these soundtracks. It's strange. Hopefully it's because there's a certain amount of quality to the sound of the music."

MONSTER MAGNET has enjoyed a loyal following for many years. Wyndorf remembers its grass roots, a time before MySpace, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media were the vehicles for promotion.

"There's no cool anymore. Cool died a long time ago. The definition of cool is to get over on people. The winner. Win. Any way, just win. That's not fuckin' rock and roll to me. It's bullshit. Everything on is like little kid music. Bullshit hip-hop, culture gone completely around the bend. It doesn't really count for poetry anymore, either. And I don't really see the mass of America's kids looking for anything other than for just something to put in their content pile. Kind of like a background music to their life. Now they're the star: 'Hey, check out my page.'"

"When someone like Marilyn Manson can't get attention by all his antics and crazy ideals, you know it's fuckin' over, dude. Like, what can you do? Suicide? The only people who pay attention to that prickly little bullshit are pop stars. They're acting like punk rockers now. The big pop stars are acting like punk rockers did 30 years ago. Throwing barbs across the fence, tweeting shit against each other. They're fighting. They're acting like they're badass when they're totally corporate. And the mass of America loves it. They think it's badass. The definition of badass and the definition of cool have been so changed around I honestly can't find a place for me here. My dream gig here would have been playing some cool guy's backyard with a bunch of record people that know what they're talking about...because there is still cool music coming out, but there's just not a lot of focus on it."


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